SEATTLE — The crowd on hand to see the Seattle Sounders’ CONCACAF Champions League group stage finale was quite a bit smaller than normal.
Don’t tell Marcus Hahnemann, though. The Seattle native helped lead the Sounders to a 3-1 win over Marathón on Wednesday in hiw first appearance with his hometown team in nearly two decades.
"It was 67,000, I thought,” Hahnemann said with a grin. “That’s what it felt like. It felt pretty good. We still have ECS, they’re cheering the whole game. It was an awesome experience."
Hahnemann, whose first stint with the Sounders came back in the old A-League from 1994-96, wasn’t called on to do much, but proved up to the task when he needed to be. The 40-year-old made four saves, none of them bigger than the stop he made on Mitchel Brown’s open shot from about 10 yards out in the 66th minute. At the time, the Sounders were leading 2-1.
Aside from that save, Hahnemann mostly looked calm and commanding, often shouting instructions to his defenders.
“I thought Marcus played well,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Certainly, I don’t think, with Marcus now in shape, there’s a team in the league with two better goalkeepers than [Michael] Gspurning and Hahnemann. That’s something that makes you feel really good as a coach and I know the team has a lot of confidence in them.”
Whether he’ll be around to enjoy it is still unknown, but Hahnemann’s performance helped improve the Sounders’ outlook heading into the knockout rounds. By winning, they completed a perfect run in the group stage and secured the No. 3 seed in the quarterfinals.
If nothing changes on Thursday, they’ll play the Houston Dynamo in early March. The LA Galaxy and Tigres UANL are the other possible opponents.
Completing a perfect run was just another positive step in Seattle’s CCL history.
“I think the team’s gotten more mature, a little more cold-blooded at times, at the right times,” Schmid said. “We did a good job last year in terms of our away games, making sure we got points there. We continued to do that this year. I just think the team has done a better job managing the games than they have in years past.”
The game also completed a career circle for Hahnemann, who has seen the status of the Sounders change immeasurably in the 16 years since he last suited up for the A-League team.
“You’re driving down the road and you see scarves in people’s cars,” Hahnemann said. “Kids are walking around wearing Sounders shirts all over town, and not just kids, you see adults. I mean everybody has really taken to the team.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.